Scientist are in search of special beauty
The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp. It is this that gives a body a skeleton, so to speak, to the shimmering visions that flatter our senses, and without this support the beauty of these fleeting dreams would be imperfect, because it would be indefinite and ever elusive. Intellectual beauty, on the contrary, is self-sufficing, and it is for it, more perhaps than for the future good of humanity, that the scientist condemns himself to long and painful labours.
It is, then, the search for this special beauty, the sense of the harmony of the world, that makes us select the facts best suited to contribute to this harmony ; just as the artist selects those features of his sitter which complete the portrait and give it character and life. And there is no fear that this instinctive and unacknowledged preoccupation will divert the scientist from the search for truth. We may dream of a harmonious world, but how far it will fall short of the real world ! The Greeks, the greatest artists that ever were, constructed a heaven for themselves ; how poor a thing it is beside the heaven as we know it !
It is because simplicity and vastness are both beautiful that we seek by preference simple facts and vast facts ; that we take delight, now in following the giant courses of the stars, now in scrutinizing with a microscope that prodigious smallness which is also a vastness, and now in seeking in geological ages the traces of a past that attracts us because of its remoteness.
We are still the masters of our fate. Rational thinking, even assisted by any conceivable electronic computors, cannot predict the future. All it can do is to map out the probability space as it appears at the present and which will be different tomorrow when one of the infinity of possible states will have materialized. Technological and social inventions are broadening this probability space all the time; it is now incomparably larger than it was before the industrial revolution—for good or for evil.
The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.
It was man’s ability to invent which has made human society what it is. The mental processes of inventions are still mysterious. They are rational but not logical, that is to say, not deductive.
Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion’, and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.
Social media has given everyone a virtual megaphone to broadcast every thought, along with the means to filter out any contrary view [...] The result is a creeping sense of isolation and emptiness, which leads people to swipe, tap, and click all the more. Digital distraction keeps the mind occupied but does little to nurture it, much less cultivate depth of feeling, which requires the resonance of another’s voice within our very bones and psyches.
Moravec's paradox is the observation by artificial intelligence and robotics researchers that, contrary to traditional assumptions, reasoning (which is high-level in humans) requires very little ...
Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change. And perhaps that point need not have been made explicit, for obviously these are the men who, being little committed by prior practice to the traditional rules of normal science, are particularly likely to see that those rules no longer define a playable game and to conceive another set that can replace them.